FOR many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would have done differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it’s easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even half of their dreams and knew that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many had not been breadwinners.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often patients would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called “comfort” of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and themselves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. – BRONNIE WARE

From the StarOnline Nov 28.1010

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